REVIEWED BY-STEVE GENIER DIRECTED BY-TAKASHI MIIKE CAST-MASAHIRO MOTOKI, RENJI ISHIBASHI, MAKOTO"MAKO"IWAMATSU and LI LI WANG. SOURCE-ARTSMAGIC DVD REGION 0 NTSC (2004) RUNTIME-118 MIN
Wada is sent to China on business, to investigate a mountainous area called Yun Nan where there are reports of a priceless Jade rock which has been found. Once in China he hooks up with his guide Shen, but he isnít the only one in for the ride. Mr. Ujiie, a Yakuza sent in to look after Wada and what he might find. A repayment for the company in which Wada works for, it seems they havenít paid their loans. As they reach their destination, they discover something else besides the priceless Jade, a culture that has a strange draw to wanting to fly, not in planes either. As their time grows on, both Wada and Mr.Ujiie develop a liking for the people and the village, but both likings are very different but yet the same. A big decision has to be made, that is when they both stand at a crossroads as what to do.
Now when the average Takashi Miike fan thinks of his films, they would quickly think of films like ICHI THE KILLER, DEAD OR ALIVE or even AUDITION, but one would rarely mention THE BIRD PEOPLE OF CHINA. Itís interesting too, given the fact this could possible be his most complete film to date. Miike totally shifts his usual gears and cruises through this cinematic action adventure of mind blowing proportions with complete smoothness. Everything is grand, lush scenery to the acting, THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA really exhibits Miikeís true craftsmanship as a director. His ability to mold fact with fiction reaches a point of being difficult to top. This is all strengthened with the incredible character development of pretty much every main character. As the story grows, you become more and more attached to each of the characters with their own different traits. The story is equally as addictive, as it goes on, it gets stronger and stronger, giving the viewer a real sense of attachment. By the end, Miike really leaves you with wanting to know more, to see more and to have contact with the two main character in the future tense.
Of course Miike only could do so much, this is aided by the wonderful performances put in by pretty much every actor involved. Especially that of the two main roles played by Masahiro Motoki who plays Wada, A Japanese business man sent into the remote Yun Nan region, to investigate the availability of a price Jade rock. Motoki is dead on as Wada, his innocence and good will is put to the test during his time in Yun Nan. For what discovers is much more then just the priceless Jade rock, he also discover a culture so peaceful and steep in their ways it makes him question his path. Also, actor Renji Ishibashi who plays Mr. Ujiie, a Yakuza who is sent in to grab the goodies from Wada, it seems that the company Wada represents has not paid their loans. Ishibashi is a Miike regular, he has appeared in several films including DEAD OR ALIVE, THE MAN IN WHITE and AUDITION. He also puts in a very strong performance, one that reveals more and more as the story goes along. His morals become into question to, when he spends time in the small village of people in the mountainous hills. His range is wide in scope as his character goes from one extreme to the other. From a die-hard killer on a mission to a man who develops a feeling of want and placement. The support cast is rock solid in their efforts as well, from long time favorite Mako who is best known for a variety of roles in Hollywood films. He plays Wada and Ujiieís guide. One canít forget the humor that is dished out in this as well and at the center of most of it is Makoís character of Shen. Rounding out the rest of the cast, you see the importance of each and everyone as their roles come into their brief spotlights. All of which combine to strengthen an already rock solid storyline.
Along with the action and adventure provided in THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA, I must touch base a little more on the great use of other genre elements for all involved play a vital role in the overall structure of this incredible tale. As mentioned briefly, there is plenty of humor used in many areas and all of which are quite effective. Taking the edge off the set-up of the filmís beginning and helping with the development of the storyís direction. This is mainly seen in the character development. Though, there is something very similar about this film with many other Takashi Miike films, it completely changes or morphís into something entirely different by the time you hit the second half of the film. Like his film AUDITION, you are subjected to what seems to be a Japanese drama or love story which turns into something so horrendous. The same can be said for THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA, you seemingly are in for an all out action/adventure film, but by the second half you are hit with comedy and a very lite heart tale. One thing is for sure, Miikeís ability to slap you in the face not once but twice and get away with it certainly hurts.
Well after reviewing an advanced screener of THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA, which I might add was the first time ever seeing this Miike film, I was really looking forward to seeing the final product Artsmagic had in store. As I expected, the wait was not in vein, for I must say they have in fact produced one of their best efforts to date. Much like the film itself, Artsmagic have taken great steps in all aspects of bringing this wonderful Miike gem to the shinny format. Starting out with a beautiful anamorphic widescreen presentation which is accompanied by a super clean 5.1 Dolby Digital track and ending with some very interesting special features. Features which include an exclusive interview with Takashi Miike, in which he discusses in great length, the steps in bringing THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA to fruitistion. The usual informative commentary from Miike specialist Tom Mes. The original trailer, bios/filmographies and even some previews of other Artsmagic offerings. The one interesting aspect which is included is a brief history of Annie Laurie and the song with words from both versions. All incased in a very different looking sleeve with loads of quotes, information on the film and the disc itself. This is certainly a great addition for any Miike fan or a great start to those who might be looking for something foreign with a great story.
STORY-4.5 BITCH SLAPS PICTURE-4 BITCH SLAPS AUDIO-4.5 BITCH SLAPS EXTRAS-3.5 BITCH SLAPS OVERALL DVD-4 BITCH SLAPS
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